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Getting Cheesy For The Holidays

partial wheel of brie

Start Your Holiday Feast Off Right

Today is the first installment in the four-week preparation of our holiday feast.

Chef Daniel Orr's long time friend Gretchen Marks has given us free rein of her home and kitchen in Columbus, Indiana. The centerpiece of her livingroom is a fireplace, which Chef Orr is taking advantage of for this meal -- all of the dishes will be cooked over an open fire.

Before we get to the serious cooking, we have two appetizers on the menu today, and both revolve around big hunks of cheese. The first recipe goes on the fire right away because we want to start eating it as soon as possible -- baked brie with hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, cherries and apricots.

Mimi Ito is an academic with a food habit. As Professor in Residence at the University of California Irvine, she studies how social media and mobile technologies shape our everyday lives. As the mother an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, she is her family's resident cook, preparing lunches for her kids to take to school. She documents the lunches on her bento blog, a Flickr account that features photos of the meals along with a description. She recently stopped by the Earth Eats studio while speaking at Indiana University.

Back in the kitchen, our second cheesy appetizer doesn't need to cook over the fire. This goat cheese cheese ball with pecans, cherries and bacon will make you wonder why you ever bought one of those orange things covered in nuts from the store. Make sure you serve this to a big group of people or you'll find you've eaten the entire thing by yourself.

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